Tom Marshall: Government not affected by PC turmoil

Premier Tom Marshall said Tuesday that the day-to-day business of running the government has not been affected by a new round of upheaval in the PC Party.
Premier Tom Marshall says the business of government at Confederation Building is not affected by problems inside the PC Party. (CBC)

Premier Tom Marshall said Tuesday that the day-to-day business of running Newfoundland and Labrador has not been affected by a new round of upheaval in the Progressive Conservative party, sparked by Frank Coleman's decision to leave politics just weeks before he was due to be sworn in as premier.

"The government hasn't been affected by this," Marshall said in an interview with the St. John's Morning Show.

"There's a premier in place, there's a cabinet in place, there's a caucus in place with a mandate to govern until October 2015," he said. 

"We've just gone through a legislative session. We passed a speech from the throne, we passed a budget, a generous budget … so the government is fine. The change here is with the party." 

Coleman said Monday that an urgent but unspecified family issue prompted his decision to halt his political career. He had been the only remaining candidate in the PC leadership race after Wayne Bennett was expelled over complaints that some tweets were racist, and fellow Corner Brook businessman Bill Barry dropped out amid complaints that the party machinery was stacked in Coleman's favour.

Marshall became premier in January, after Kathy Dunderdale stepped down. While Marshall still plans to retire soon, he said he will continue to serve as premier until the Progressive Conservatives elect a new leader.

Marshall, who delivered his farewell speech to the House of Assembly just before it closed for summer recess on June 5, said he will not be reconsidering his own position.

"Maybe if I was 10 years younger, I'd do it. I'd stay," he said. "But I'm not, and it's time for me to move on."

'He had it won'

Meanwhile, Marshall said he was shocked that Coleman had decided to leave, and downplayed speculation that the previous race had been fixed in Coleman's favour.

Frank Coleman, who was acclaimed in the last PC leadership contest, said Monday he no longer wanted to be premier. (CBC)
"We had an open and transparent process. It was open to everybody — anybody who wanted to run was welcome to run," he said. "Some newcomers did, people from the outside [entered the race], and now they're gone."

He added that there had been no reason to suspect that Coleman would shut down his political career.

"He had it won," he said. "He was just a few days away from being sworn in, but yet he's had the courage for the sake of his family to walk away from it, and you have to give him credit for that."  

Coleman's decision also affects senior ranks at Confederation Building.

In May, about six weeks before Coleman was set to take over the reins of the Progressive Conservatives at a July convention, most of the staff at the premier's office were dismissed.

Marshall said Coleman's departure will not dramatically change things.

"They're Progressive Conservatives. We're all on the same team," Marshall said of the people running the top political office in the province. "People will come and go and they will serve the premier."